Daniel 3:18. Really, the whole third chapter of Daniel has been on/in/everywhere in my heart lately. That phrase “IF NOT” flows so well with the story of Daniel and his companions. And it transcends time. Because 2600 years later, it’s speaking loud and clear to me.
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
They had immense faith the Lord would save them. They trusted and believed with their whole hearts. They knew He would. Miracles were evident in their lives and they didn’t question that the Lord would save them.
And then the disclaimer. But even if not. The because. The what if. The, in case things don’t work out how we hope. In that circumstance, we will still love our God. We will still have faith. We will still believe that He knows our desires and dreams. We are tied to Him no matter what.
For me it’s easy to give that no nonsense faith to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Of course they had extreme faith. They were men of God. They were called to live out their fantastic story. And after the scorching close call? Things turned out. My faith? Mustard seed in comparison. Would I have done what they did? I’d like to think. But I waiver, I may not have. The probability is actually quite low. My family needs me. I’ll show faith in other ways. I’ll temporarily deny my God so I can go on and do greater things for Him. Can’t serve Him well if I’m dead or wounded or lost in pain, now can I?
The reality … I don’t fully claim the “if not”. It’s too hard to think that when I profess my faith that God may not guide my life in what I’d like to believe is the right way. Selfish, I know. Human nature gets me every time. I want to have faith in the yes; I want to have faith in the happy ending. Easy faith is, well, easy. The flip side? The dark and dirty of life? It’s not my hope, it’s not what I pray for. I’d rather love God when he gives me what I want. There’s the brutal honestly. I prefer to be a Christian when life is beautiful and rewarding. Praising in the storm? No thank you. I’d rather drown in the rain fall.
And that’s why I wear IF NOT. I need a frequent reminder. Let’s face it. I need a tattoo.
But even if he does not … heal him, save her, guide them, provide for us, deliver him, protect her, keep us from pain … I will stay true to my God. When I say it out loud. When I write it. When I fall asleep with that final though it becomes more and more true. I will embrace the temporality of life on earth and strive for things of eternity. I will forgo my dreams for His cause. I will learn and re-learn selflessness. I will own my faith despite the circumstances. Even if not …
IF NOT. Two tiny words that are preaching to me every day. Challenging me and hopefully teaching me to be less like me and more like Him.